By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—The Debt Management Office, DMO, said yesterday that the nation’s total debt profile currently stood at $57.39 billion.
Director-General of DMO, Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, who disclosed this when he appeared before the Senator Shehu Sani’s Committee on Foreign and Local Debts to defend his agency’s budget proposal, said the total debt stock comprised external and domestic debts of the federal government, those of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, as December 31, 2016.
This came on a day the Presidency slashed its 2017 budget by N3 billion, in view of the present economic recession in the country.
Nwankwo explained that of the total debt stock, external debt stood at $11.41 billion, while domestic debt stock was put at $45.98 billion.
According to him, the 36 states and FCT accounted for about 32.45 percent of the total external debt as at December 31,2016, while the federal government accounted for about 67.55 percent.
He added that the disaggregated external debt stock of the 36 states and FCT as at June 2016 was $3.65 billion, while the disaggregated domestic debt stock of the states and the FCT as at September 2016 was N2,822.89 billion.
Explaining the increase in the debt profile, Nwankwo said: “We observed that the increase was about 6.5 percent and this was as a result of additional disbursement because we don’t disburse a good number of the external loan we take at a go.”
Nwankwo who noted that the domestic debt stock by instruments as at 31st December, 2016 stood at N11,058,204,296,592.00, adding that federal government bonds were N7,564,937,465,592.00; Nigerian Treasury Bills, N3,277,278,831,000.00; and Treasury bonds, N215,988,000,000.00.
When chairman of the committee, Senator Sani asked why the debt profile had not been forgiven, at least with the goodwill of the present government, the DMO boss said Nigeria would not beg for debt forgiveness, since the economy was in good shape.
Senator Sani, who was apparently not comfortable with the position of the DMO Director- General, said: “It is shocking that in 2016, people don’t find it easy to feed their families, pay the fees of their children, pay their rents.
‘’Now things are in very bad shape, but not typical of somebody who lives with the people, but somebody speaking from an expert point of view to say we are not in a bad position to ask for forgiveness.
‘’These are two things, if you are talking from the point of how our people live nowadays, you will not be able to say such things. But you are speaking naturally as an expert.
‘’Our most concern is the fact that most of the states simply collect money, piled up so many debts for their children and grandchildren and there is nothing to show for it. Many of them couldn’t pay salaries and we have seen how some new sets of cash disbursement were done to them from excess crude account to ecological funds.”
Meanwhile, the Senate was told yesterday that the Presidency has slashed its 2017 budget by N3 billion, even as N94.5 million was budgeted for the purchase of bullet proof tyres for state house officials.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs to defend the 2017 Budget, Permanent Secretary, State House, Jalal Arabi, said the budget cut in 2016 from N16,563,395,984 to N13, 567,979,279 in 2017 represented 18.08 percent reduction, compared with the sum appropriated last year.
The Permanent Secretary, who disclosed that the State House had proposed the sum of N4.9 billion for villa maintenance, said it also owed Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC, N552 million and an outstanding sewage charges of N52.8 million.
He said the N100 million earmarked for kitchen equipment in 2016 budget was not released, noting that “there is a proposal for the sum of N52.8 million in the 2017 budget. The committee may wish to be informed that the bills received from Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB) for liquid waste disposal for the state House for 2016 is N15.6 million, with outstanding liabilities of previous years standing at N37.5 million (totaling N52.8m). The figure has remained consistent.
“This informed the provision of the same amount of N52.8 million in 2017. This position was the same sought for in our 2016 proposal but only paltry sum of N6.1 million was appropriated. We have, however, commenced negotiations with AEPB to arrive at a mutually acceptable charge henceforth.’’
Commenting, two members of the committee, Senators Duro Faseyi and Joshua Lidani, expressed displeasure over the level of releases by the Ministry of Finance to the State House.